Commentary

Use More Than Twitter Volumes To Understand A Show's Success

Twitter is the perfect data source to help entertainment marketers and show runners understand what audiences think about TV shows, especially brand new series. We looked at a few of the new fall TV shows to see what's working, what isn't, and what entertainment brands can learn from these examples.

ABC's “Quantico” became the first show in the 2015 fall lineup to grow in its ratings between its first and second week. It reached more than 11 million viewers in each of its first two episodes. On Twitter, it generated 133k tweets its first week (61k on premiere day), and 77k its second week, losing quite a bit of steam on Twitter while it picked up steam in the ratings. These are fairly low tweet volume numbers for a popular show. And in this case, Twitter may be a leading indicator, as “Quantico” saw a dip in ratings in its third week, a trend that continued in the weeks after.

Early on this season, one of the highest rated new shows was “Blindspot” on NBC. It did very well in the ratings and generated positive reviews. On Twitter, however, it consistently underperformed “Quantico” by quite a bit. The “Blindspot” premiere generated only 26k tweets on the day of the episode, and 45k total tweets in its first week. Those numbers dropped even lower in subsequent weeks. However its ratings remain higher than “Quantico”’s, even though its Twitter numbers are lower.

So what can we learn by comparing “Quantico” and “Blindspot?” Well, Twitter activity doesn't always predict or even correlate to ratings. Tweets don't necessarily mean eyeballs when it comes to TV. Not all shows find an audience on Twitter. And not all shows market to Twitter users, or spend much time or resources on social media. This also helps us see that, while Twitter is a great source of data to learn what audiences think about a show, it shouldn't be the only source of data. 

It's worth comparing “Quantico” and “Blindspot” to a social powerhouse like Fox's “Scream Queens,” which generated 888k tweets the day it premiered, along with hundreds of thousands of tweets in the weeks leading up to the premiere. “Scream Queens”' marketing team spent considerable resources on a huge social media campaign starting months before the show aired. This led to much of the initial Twitter interest we saw. Those volumes slowed considerably since the first episode, dropping to an average of about 100k tweets per episode. In addition, its ratings slipped from numbers that started already somewhat lower than anticipated.

Regardless of what tweets can or can't tell us about a show's ratings, Twitter conversation about a television show can reveal a number of useful insights. What does an audience like about a show? What characters and plot lines do people like (or not like)? Are they confused about anything? What are they looking forward to from episode to episode? Show runners can use this information to make decisions about future storylines, and show marketers can create future campaigns that target fan favorites.

For TV brands, it's important to look at Twitter activity in a variety of ways to understand fan reactions. Drill into minute-by-minute tweet volumes to pinpoint exactly when viewers got excited about a moment onscreen — or when they checked out and stopped tweeting. And be sure to compare tweet patterns for your shows to similar shows to see how they measured up, no matter when those shows aired. Understanding how your own show performed on Twitter is good, but being able to benchmark those numbers against competitive shows is great.

Twitter is a great focus group for entertainment marketers who want to know what audiences are talking about and how they can improve fan engagement and marketing efforts. But it's important not to put too much weight on top-level numbers like tweet volumes and engagement. Instead, take the time to look at what you can learn from the tweets themselves.

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